Hundreds forced to wait over twelve hours at North Mid for emergency care

Hospital’s A&E figures for December highlight huge NHS pressures, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

North Middlesex Hospital
North Middlesex Hospital

Hundreds of patients had to wait longer than twelve hours to be admitted to North Mid’s accident and emergency (A&E) department during December.

Figures published by North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust for December reveal 859 patients waited more than twelve hours for admission to A&E – up from 638 during November – with some patients being assessed in corridors.

It came as the hospital experienced a surge in demand for treatment. December was the third-busiest month ever for A&E attendances at North Mid, with the daily rate ranging from 525 patients to a record-high 768 patients.

The health service has a target to ensure 95% of A&E patients are seen, treated and admitted or discharged within four hours. But only 58.3% of the 18,181 patients who attended the hospital’s emergency department in December were treated within the four-hour turnaround time, the figures show.

In addition, 333 patients had to wait longer than an hour to be moved from an ambulance to the A&E department after arriving at the hospital. This figure was down on the previous month, however, following a decline in the number of ambulance arrivals.

There was also a drop in the trust’s performance on referral-to-treatment times during December. The data shows only 69.7% of patients waited fewer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment at North Mid, compared to a target of 92%.

The figures were published in a report that was presented to a meeting of the hospital trust’s board yesterday (Thursday).

Shola Adegoroye, the trust’s chief operating officer, told the meeting that the winter period had been “extraordinarily challenging so far”, adding that “we pretty much came from a winter that did not end last year”.

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Planning undertaken earlier in the year had allowed the hospital to keep patients “as safe as possible”, Shola said, despite the performance against the four-hour A&E standard being “the lowest reported since Covid”. She added that there had been a period of “extreme pressure” on A&E in December because of an outbreak of strep A infections.

Shola continued: “What we are seeing is the delivery of care in ways that are not optimum, and in ways that we would never have believed we would have to deliver care before. We have got a number of patients each day that wait longer than ever for an ambulance handover.

“We do deliver care in areas across our ED [emergency department] that we have had to expand, and we also have longer waits for patients being discharged from hospital due to the challenges in […] support in the community and capacity there.

“That being said, our teams work continuously to ensure that patients, as far as possible, are leaving our hospital with the support in place that they require.”

Mark Lam, the NHS trust’s chair, said the hospital had faced a “perfect storm” of factors including “the cost-of-living crisis, industrial action, winter pressures, Covid and flu”. He asked how the trust was looking to ensure the public did not make the “wrong decisions” about accessing care given media reports of NHS pressures.

Shola said the “key message” was that the trust wants people to come to A&E if they are sick, but they require “clarity about what that means” and about “other professionals they can access”.

She added that there was a “very joined-up communications campaign” with other hospitals advising people when to access A&E, with information and advice also provided to those who arrive at North Mid.

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